New-look S’pore team gunning for SEA Games netball gold again
KUALA LUMPUR – They made history in 2015 by winning the country’s first-ever South-east Asian (SEA) Games netball gold medal.
But since then, more than half the players of that formidable team have left the national set-up.
As such, it will be a much-changed squad that will compete at the Kuala Lumpur (KL) Games, with just five players who featured in the 2015 Games – vice-captains Nurul Baizura and Charmaine Soh, Chen Lili, Kimberly Lim and Shina Teo – included in the 12-woman side.
While the new-look team has played together for close to two years now, it will still be some time before they can cultivate the sort of understanding on the court that former stalwarts Micky Lin, Chen Huifen and Premila Hirubalan had developed over the course of more than 100 international games, said interim national netball coach Yeo Mee Hong.
That is why she believes that despite being reigning champions, Singapore will be underdogs for the gold medal this time.
“In terms of team chemistry, the players are still building on their understanding, and we’re still sorting out the different team combinations,” said Yeo, who took charge after former coach Ruth Aitken stepped down at the end of last year.
“The three players who retired – Micky, Huifen and Premila – were the pillars of the previous team, and it’s not been easy to replace them.
“But this new team has had more than a year to play together, and I think it’s time for this young group to step up. Nonetheless, I believe we’re underdogs at this SEA Games, but we’ll definitely still be going for the gold medal again.”
Instead, Yeo felt that hosts Malaysia, who won last year’s Asian Netball Championships are favourites for the gold.
“Based on their success at the Asian championships, Malaysia are considered the top team in the region at the moment,” said Yeo, whose charges came in third at the competition in Bangkok.
“They’re a very physical team, and have home support. So it’ll be tough against them, but exciting as well for sure.”
The national netballers, who arrived here on Saturday afternoon but only underwent a full training session yesterday, will open their title defence against Brunei at the Juara Stadium today (Aug 14).
Captain Vanessa Lee, 33, told TODAY that the team is eager to get their SEA Games campaign off to a good start.
“Everyone’s feeling excited for our first game, and morale is really high,” said Lee. “We’ve been preparing for the Games for some time now, and the team dynamics have improved tremendously.
“To retain our title, we will need to play clean netball and cut out the simple errors, while being clinical as well. If we follow our coach’s tactics and focus on doing the basic things right, the results will naturally follow.”
SEA GAMES ON MEDIACORP:
Catch the 29th SEA Games live on Okto and Toggle.
You can watch the Games on Otko every day from 6-9pm on weekdays and 4-9pm on weekends. There is also a daily Today at the Games round-up at 9pm every night.
You can also catch the Games live on Toggle at http://tv.toggle.sg/en/tv/shows/29th-sea-games